Detective Jeff Gomes had lived with death and violence for 20 years, but had never got used to them. He hid his real feelings underneath a wisecracking shell and his colleagues in Seattle police department regarded him as a pretty tough nut. Now, with King County Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Eakes, Jeff Gomes was driving through the upmarket Seattle suburb of Bellevue, on the misty afternoon in January, 1997 — and secretly dreading the moment when he would have to tell unsuspecting parents that their daughter had been murdered.
The body of 19-year-old Kimberley Wilson had been found an hour earlier by children playing in Water Tower Park on the outskirts of Seattle and identified by a chequebook in the pocket of her tartan windcheater. She had been beaten up and then strangled. Gomes and Eakes volunteered to find her family and break the news, which was how they came to be in 21st Avenue South East, a smart suburb, parking beside an elegant modern glass-clad house with three cars in the driveway. Bracing himself to impart the dread news, Jeff Gomes, knocked on the frontdoor and rang the bell. All was silent inside the house, but the presence of the cars surely signified that several people were at home?
However bad Jeff Gomes had imagined the next five minutes would be, the reality was beyond belief. Finding the front door unlocked, the detective drew his gun and slipped inside. The house was neat, quiet and expensively furnished.
"No one here," Gomes called to Patricia Eakes. Then he saw the bodies. There were three — mother, father and daughter, lying on the sitting room carpet. They would never know of the fate of Kimberley Wilson. Beaten savagely with a heavy weapon, they were lying dead in pools of their own blood. Soon police, detectives and forensic scientists were swarming over the house. The dead victims were Bill and Rose Wilson and their daughter Julia. With Kim already dead in bushes half a mile away, the whole Wilson family, friendly, hard-working and popular, had been wiped out.
"They were a decent American family, anxious to make the best of their potential," Jeff Gomes said later. Bill Wilson, at 58, was a partner in a successful real-estate firm, and an active cyclist, tennis-player and hiker. Rose was a firm but kind, mother, a supportive and loving wife, an expert scuba diver and a stalwart of the local girl guides. Their daughters were active church-goers, members of youth clubs, enthusiastic amateur musicians and keen on swimming and tennis.
Why should anyone want to harm a family which was almost a prototype of the wholesome middle class American dream? A week after the killings, police were no nearer finding an answer to that... until they began questioning pupils and staff at Bellevue High School where both Wilson girls had been students. It was when detectives interviewed two sixth form students named Amryn Decker and Danielle Berry that they finally got the lead they had been praying for. Both were ex-girlfriends of a 17-year-old Bellevue school dropout named David Anderson — and both remembered a disturbing conversation they had with him when they were "going steady".
Anderson had apparently told them both that he planned to commit murder. He spoke of it in great detail, saying he would use knives and a baseball bat and if he did it before he was 18 he wouldn't have to spend his life in gaol. Questioned at his parents' home, David Anderson was relaxed and cool. He said he knew nothing about the murders apart from hearing about them on TV and had spent the evening of the killings with his friend Alex Baranyi, where they had played a video game until 5am.
When interviewed later, Baranyi was similarly relaxed and was friendly and co-operative. He showed police his collection of ornamental swords and expressed regret about the death of the Wilson family. "This was such a peaceful neighbourhood," he said. "What crazy people would do a thing like that?"
Friends subsequently told the police that Baranyi and Anderson were p